Thursday, January 18, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 18, 2001

'Survivor II' not end of the world

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sleazy. Exploitative. Titillating. And that’s some of the nicer things people are saying about TV’s latest round of really bad programming.

Critics, talk-show hosts and other holier-than-thou types are secretly delighted to be outraged by "Temptation Island," "Manhunt," "Mole" and "Survivor II." They haven’t had this much stuff to talk about since dimpled chads.

Every day, you hear someone say these new shows are shameful, voyeuristic, the end of civilization as we know it. People wonder if Hollywood hasn’t finally become the next Babylon.

Hey! Chill out!

TV is low-brow? Well, duh.

Did you think the schlock we’ve been watching for decades was educational? It’s pretty much been garbage right from the start. It’s been a cesspool since the day Milton Berle told his first off-color joke before a camera.

If 50 years of TV culture has taught us anything at all, it’s that TV culture is pretty much one of those self-canceling phrases, like military intelligence or compassionate conservatism. Think I’m exaggerating? Two words: Lucille Ball. Three more words: The Three Stooges. Four words: "My Mother, the Car."

It’s not really all that big a jump from "Gilligan’s Island" to "Temptation Island." "Millionaire" is just a glamorous remake of "$64,000 Question," and that ended in a scandal that the whole nation somehow took to heart.

The critics say we, the viewers, are to blame.

"Temptation Island," which arrived awash in controversy, and "The Mole" premiered to solid ratings. More than 16 million people watched "Temptation Island," even though almost all of them understood what trash to expect. NBC plans to show special 40-minute episodes of "Friends" during the upcoming sweeps week rating period to keep viewers from switching to "Survivor."

You know what? I don’t care. Besides, how can I criticize anyone’s TV watching habits?

I can spend eight hours on a beautiful Hawaii Sunday watching football games with teams I couldn’t care less about. I’d rather watch "Nash Bridges" than read Ogden Nash after a long day at work. I think "Xena, Warrior Princess" is really cool.

So yes, I’m guilty. Pretty much, we all are.

I’ll bet you the most pompous critics of "Survivor" don’t know what violence their kids are watching on the Cartoon Network. The violence they once thought funny in "Bugs Bunny" or "Road Runner," they now condemn in "South Park."

When it comes to television, criticism is a long, slippery slope. No one should be surprised that we’ve fallen into a big hole and can’t find our way out.

It’s hardly the end of the world, though. We’re all survivors of 50 years of bad TV. Nothing in "Survivor II" or "Temptation Island" can make things worse.

Mike Leidemann’s columns appear Thursdays and Saturdays in The Advertiser. He can be reached by phone (525-5460) or e-mail (

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